Graph data structures - Searching

Previously we looked at an introduction to graph data structures and designed a very basic Graph implementation.  I also mentioned that the main things we would likely want to do with a graph is search/explore the graph.

There are two primary tools that we will use to explore graphs - these are basic computer science concepts, and should be familiar to everyone who has studied computer science at uni and faced graphs before.

Depth First Search (DFS) 

The concept behinds DFS is that given a starting point or root node, we will
search as deep as we can one route before backtracking (e.g. select a neighbour to the root node, visit that neighbour, then select a neighbour from that node and visit - continue this until we reach a node that we cannot follow any more edges from, and then backtrack up the graph considering alternate neighbours at each step)

DFS is pretty simple to implement and nataurally uses a Stack data structure to keep track of the backtracking (the easiest way to do this is to solve recursively using the implicit Stack)

Below is a simple Java implementation of DFS using recursion to handle the backtracking.

Breadth First Search (BFS)

This search takes the different approach of looking as wide as possible before moving down a level. For example, we will visit all the immediate neighbours of the root, then select one of the immediate neighbours and visit their immediate neighbours - then backtrack up to visit other neighbours at this level.

(image also from wikipedia)

BFS is also fairly simple, and pretty close to DFS but it uses a Queue (FIFO) structure rather than a stack to visit nodes from the root down first.  Below is example code of BFS implemented in Java.

rob hinds

I'm on to the next one, on to the next one..