CS 132
Computer Science II
Sort Detective

David B. Levine
Computer Science Department
St. Bonaventure University

"I had the spots removed for luck; fortunately I remember where the spots formerly was."  - Nathan Detroit, Guys and Dolls


     The primary objective of this lab is for you to apply your theoretical knowledge of sorting algorithms to solve a problem of poor user interface design.  More specifically, you will be given a program which is designed to measure comparisons, data movements, and execution time for the seven sorting algorithms discussed in class.  Unfortunately, the designer of the program did not label the buttons properly.  You must apply your understanding of the general properties of the algorithms (and in some cases of the code used to implement them) to determine the proper labeling of the buttons.

     The secondary objective of this lab is for you to gain experience writing a concise, but complete analysis of a system.


     As you know from class, if you double the size of the data set that you give to a quadratic algorithm, it will do four times the work; by contrast, an O(NlogN) algorithm will do a bit more than twice as much; and, a linear algorithm will do only twice as much work.  As you also know, the characteristics of the input data set can affect the expected performance of many of our sorting algorithms.  Before you begin the lab, you should review the expected performance of the algorithms on various data sets.

     The sorting algorithms under study this week include (in alphabetical order): bubbleSort, heapSort, insertionSort, mergeSort, quickSort, selectionSort, and shellSort.

Instructions - Warning: read all of the instructions before beginning!

  1. Begin by copying the SortDetective application from the server.  Execute it and play with it a bit.  Notice that the button names do not give any indication which sort they will execute.  Notice also, that if you create a small list, then that list is shown to you in the console window.  In the unlikely event that a sort fails (oops!), a message will appear there as well.

  2. Devise a plan which will enable you to match the particular algorithms to the button names.  Hint:  It may make sense to try to divide the sorts into initial groups and then to work on each group separately.  Divide and conquer: it works for algorithms and it can work here, too!

  3. Execute your plan, taking careful notes as you go.

  4. Describe the results of your experiment in a summary document.  Begin with a summary of the matching and then show the rationalization process that justifies it.  A sample from a similar (but much simpler) lab on searching can be seen here.


A Note on Writing

     There is no coding in this lab.  Thus, you should expect that a significant portion of the lab grade for this lab will be determined by the quality of the writing of the report.  This includes the completeness of the report, the clarity (and grammar) of the writing, and general presentation.  In the past, some students who matched all seven sorts correctly have received poor grades due to sloppy writing. Don't be one of them!

     Some of the sorts are very difficult to distinguish.  A carefully outlined experiment may compensate for an error in these cases if the writing makes it clear that your conclusions/guesses are substantiated by the data.

     Finally, remember that your report needn't detail every experiment you ran.  Rather, it should give sufficient information to justify your conclusions.  It is possible to write a very short report that is completely correct if your experiments are well-chosen.  After you learn the matching, you might consider whether there was a shorter way to arrive at your conclusion!

To Hand In


            You need only hand in the final report from Step 4.  


Assignment Type (see Academic Practices and Policies Document):

            Group assignment, limited collaboration.