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4.1: Classifying MyLinkedList methods

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    My implementation of indexOf is below. Read through it and see if you can identify its order of growth before you read the explanation.

    public int indexOf(Object target) {
        Node node = head;
        for (int i=0; i<size; i++) {
            if (equals(target, {
                return i;
            node =;
        return -1;

    Initially node gets a copy of head, so they both refer to the same Node. The loop variable, i, counts from 0 to size-1. Each time through the loop, we use equals to see if we’ve found the target. If so, we return i immediately. Otherwise we advance to the next Node in the list.

    Normally we would check to make sure the next Node is not null, but in this case it is safe because the loop ends when we get to the end of the list (assuming size is consistent with the actual number of nodes in the list).

    If we get through the loop without finding the target, we return -1.

    So what is the order of growth for this method?

    1. Each time through the loop we invoke equals, which is constant time (it might depend on the size of target or data, but it doesn’t depend on the size of the list). The other operations in the loop are also constant time.
    2. The loop might run n times, because in the worse case, we might have to traverse the whole list.

    So the run time of this method is proportional to the length of the list.

    Next, here is my implementation of the two-parameter add method. Again, you should try to classify it before you read the explanation.

    public void add(int index, E element) {
        if (index == 0) {
            head = new Node(element, head);
        } else {
            Node node = getNode(index-1);
   = new Node(element,;

    If index==0, we’re adding the new Node at the beginning, so we handle that as a special case. Otherwise, we have to traverse the list to find the element at index-1. We use the helper method getNode:

    private Node getNode(int index) {
        if (index < 0 || index >= size) {
            throw new IndexOutOfBoundsException();
        Node node = head;
        for (int i=0; i<index; i++) {
            node =;
        return node;

    getNode checks whether index is out of bounds; if so, it throws an exception. Otherwise it traverses the list and returns the requested Node.

    Jumping back to add, once we find the right Node, we create the new Node and put it between node and You might find it helpful to draw a diagram of this operation to make sure you understand it.

    So, what’s the order of growth for add?

    1. getNode is similar to indexOf, and it is linear for the same reason.
    2. In add, everything before and after getNode is constant time.

    So all together, add is linear.

    Finally, let’s look at remove:

    public E remove(int index) {
        E element = get(index);
        if (index == 0) {
            head =;
        } else {
            Node node = getNode(index-1);
        return element;

    remove uses get to find and store the element at index. Then it removes the Node that contained it.

    If index==0, we handle that as a special case again. Otherwise we find the node at index-1 and modify it to skip over and link directly to This effectively removes from the list, and it can be garbage collected.

    Finally, we decrement size and return the element we retrieved at the beginning.

    So, what’s the order of growth for remove? Everything in remove is constant time except get and getNode, which are linear. So remove is linear.

    When people see two linear operations, they sometimes think the result is quadratic, but that only applies if one operation is nested inside the other. If you invoke one operation after the other, the run times add. If they are both in \( O(n) \), the sum is also in \( O(n) \).

    This page titled 4.1: Classifying MyLinkedList methods is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Allen B. Downey (Green Tea Press) .

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