Mastering Bubble Sort: Simplifying Sorting Algorithms in Programming

Learn Bubble Sort in C with our easy-to-follow guide, perfect for beginners looking to understand sorting algorithms.

Mastering Bubble Sort: Simplifying Sorting Algorithms in Programming
Photo by Kind and Curious / Unsplash

Introduction to Bubble Sort

Bubble Sort is one of the simplest sorting algorithms in computer science. Despite its inefficiency compared to more advanced sorting methods like Quick Sort or Merge Sort, it remains a popular topic in introductory programming courses due to its straightforward implementation and ease of understanding. Bubble Sort works by repeatedly stepping through the list, comparing adjacent elements, and swapping them if they are in the wrong order. This process is repeated until no swaps are needed, indicating that the list is sorted.

Detailed Algorithm with Pseudo Code and Explanation

Bubble Sort Algorithm Overview:
The essence of Bubble Sort lies in its iterative approach to sorting, where each pass through the list places the next largest or smallest element in its correct position, in a manner akin to bubbles rising to the surface of water.

Pseudo Code:

function bubbleSort(array)
    n = length of array
        swapped = false
        for i from 1 to n-1 inclusive do
            if array[i-1] > array[i] then
                swap(array[i-1], array[i])
                swapped = true
            end if
        end for
    until not swapped
end function

Explanation of Logic:

  1. Initialization: Start with a flag variable swapped set to false. This flag will monitor whether any elements were swapped during a particular iteration.
  2. Outer Loop: The sorting process repeats until no swaps are made in a complete pass, suggesting that the array is sorted.
  3. Inner Loop: For each iteration, the function loops through the list up to the last unsorted element. Each pair of adjacent elements is compared, and they are swapped if they are not in order.
  4. Completion: When a pass completes without any swaps, the flag swapped remains false, breaking the loop and confirming the list's sorted status.

Implementation in C Language

#include <stdio.h>

void bubbleSort(int array[], int size) {
    for (int step = 0; step < size - 1; ++step) {
        int swapped = 0;
        for (int i = 0; i < size - step - 1; ++i) {
            if (array[i] > array[i + 1]) {
                int temp = array[i];
                array[i] = array[i + 1];
                array[i + 1] = temp;
                swapped = 1;
        // If no two elements were swapped by inner loop, then break
        if (swapped == 0) {

int main() {
    int data[] = {64, 34, 25, 12, 22, 11, 90};
    int size = sizeof(data) / sizeof(data[0]);
    bubbleSort(data, size);
    printf("Sorted Array in Ascending Order:\n");
    for (int i = 0; i < size; i++) {
        printf("%d  ", data[i]);
    return 0;

Explanation of the C Code:

  • Function Definition: The bubbleSort function sorts an array using the bubble sort algorithm.
  • Swapping Logic: Inside the nested loop, adjacent elements are compared and swapped if necessary. The swapped flag tracks whether any swap has occurred.
  • Early Termination: If no elements are swapped during a particular iteration, it indicates that the array is already sorted, allowing for an early exit from the loop.

Time and Space Complexity:

  • Time Complexity: The worst-case time complexity of Bubble Sort is 𝑂(𝑛2)O(n2), where 𝑛n is the number of items being sorted. This occurs when the array is in reverse order. The best case, when the array is already sorted, the time complexity is 𝑂(𝑛)O(n).
  • Space Complexity: 𝑂(1)O(1). Bubble Sort is an in-place sorting algorithm since it only requires a small, constant amount of additional storage space.


Despite its simplicity, Bubble Sort is not suitable for large datasets due to its time complexity. However, it can be quite effective for:

  • Small datasets or nearly sorted arrays where the algorithm performs relatively well.
  • Educational purposes, helping students understand the basics of sorting and algorithms.
  • Systems with extremely limited memory resources where more complex, higher-overhead algorithms may not be feasible.


Bubble Sort exemplifies basic algorithmic principles and provides a foundation for understanding more complex sorting methods. While not often used in production for large-scale sorting tasks, it offers significant educational value and is a stepping stone to mastering more efficient algorithms. Its simplicity makes it an excellent first sort algorithm to implement and understand for anyone learning how to program.

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