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3.10: Recursive Version

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  • Another way to write a binary search is with a recursive method. The trick is to write a method that takes low and high as parameters, and turn steps 3 and 4 into recursive invocations. Here’s what the code looks like:

    public static int binarySearch(Card[] cards, Card target, int low, int high) {
        if (high < low) {
            return -1;
        int mid = (low + high) / 2;                     // step 1
        int comp = cards[mid].compareTo(target);
        if (comp == 0) {                                // step 2
            return mid;
        } else if (comp < 0) {                          // step 3
            return binarySearch(cards, target, mid + 1, high);
        } else {                                        // step 4
            return binarySearch(cards, target, low, mid - 1);

    Instead of a while loop, we have an if statement to terminate the recursion. If high is less than low, there are no cards between them, and we conclude that the card is not in the array.

    Two common errors in recursive programs are (1) forgetting to include a base case, and (2) writing the recursive call so that the base case is never reached. Either error causes infinite recursion and a StackOverflowException.