Linear Search in Python – PythonForBeginners.com

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While programming, you must have encountered situations where we need to know the position of an element in a list. We can use the linear search algorithm for this purpose. In this article, we will implement a linear search algorithm to find the index of an element in a list in python.

What is a linear search algorithm?

In the linear search algorithm, we start from the index 0 of a list and check if the element is present at the index or not. If the element is present at the index, we return the index as output. Otherwise, we move to the next index until we find the element that is being searched or we reach the end of the list. 

For example, Suppose that we are given a list myList=[1,23,45,23,34,56,12,45,67,24] .

Now, we want to search the index of the element 12. For this, we will start from index 0 and check  if 12 is present there or not. If yes, we will return 0 as result or we will move to index 1. We will keep moving in this way to index 6 where 12 is present. After checking that 12 is present at index 6, we will return 6 as an output. If any element is not present, we will return -1 which will specify that the element is not present in the list.

Having an overview of the linear search operation, let us define an algorithm for the linear search operation.

Algorithm for linear search

The algorithm for linear search can be specified as follows.

Input to algorithm: A list and an element to be searched.

Output: Index of the element if the element is present. Otherwise,-1.

  1. Start from index 0 of the list.
  2. Check if the element is present at the current position.
  3. If yes, return the current index. Goto 8.
  4. Check if the current element is the last element of the list.
  5. If yes, return -1. Goto 8. Otherwise, goto 6.
  6. Move to the next index of the list.
  7. Goto 2.
  8. Stop.

As we have defined the algorithm for linear search, let us implement it in python.

def LinearSearch(input_list: list, element: int):
    list_len = len(input_list)
    for i in range(list_len):
        if input_list[i] == element:
            return i
    return -1


myList = [1, 23, 45, 23, 34, 56, 12, 45, 67, 24]
print("Given list is:", myList)
position = LinearSearch(myList, 12)
print("Element 12 is at position:", position)

Output:

Given list is: [1, 23, 45, 23, 34, 56, 12, 45, 67, 24]
Element 12 is at position: 6

Drawbacks of linear search algorithm

A linear search algorithm is very costly in terms of time complexity. It has O(n) complexity in the worst case where n is the number of elements in the list.

Another drawback is that it doesn’t consider the arrangement of elements in the list. If the elements are arranged in ascending order and we have to search for the largest element, it will always take a maximum number of steps to produce a result.

Similarly, if an element is not present in the list, it will again take the maximum number of steps to produce the result as it will traverse each element of the list. 

Conclusion

In this article, we have discussed the linear search algorithm. We have also implemented it in python. To learn more about python programming, you can read this article on list comprehension. You may also like this article on the linked list in Python.

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