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# Finding Top K Elements in a Java Array

Last modified: September 3, 2022

## 1. Overview

In this tutorial, we'll implement different solutions to the problem of** finding the k largest elements** in an array with Java. To describe time complexity we`ll be using Big-O notation.

## 2. Brute-Force Solution

The brute-force solution to this problem is to **iterate through the given array k times**.

**In each iteration, we'll**

**find the largest value**. Then we'll remove this value from the array and put into the output list:

```
public List findTopK(List input, int k) {
List array = new ArrayList<>(input);
List topKList = new ArrayList<>();
for (int i = 0; i < k; i++) {
int maxIndex = 0;
for (int j = 1; j < array.size(); j++) {
if (array.get(j) > array.get(maxIndex)) {
maxIndex = j;
}
}
topKList.add(array.remove(maxIndex));
}
return topKList;
}
```

If we suppose *n* to be the size of the given array, **the time complexity of this solution is O(n * k)**. Furthermore, this is the most inefficient solution.

## 3. Java Collections Approach

However, more efficient solutions to this problem exist. In this section, we'll explain two of them using Java Collections.

### 3.1. *TreeSet*

*TreeSet* has a **Red-Black Tree** **data structure** as a backbone. As a result, putting a value to this set costs *O(log n)*. *TreeSet* is a sorted collection. Therefore, we can** put all the values in the TreeSet**

**and**

**extract the first**of them:

*k*```
public List<Integer> findTopK(List<Integer> input, int k) {
Set<Integer> sortedSet = new TreeSet<>(Comparator.reverseOrder());
sortedSet.addAll(input);
return sortedSet.stream().limit(k).collect(Collectors.toList());
}
```

The **time complexity of this solution is O(n * log n)**. Above all, this is supposed to be more efficient than the brute-force approach if

*k ≥ log n*.

It's important to remember that *TreeSet* contains no duplicates. As a result, the solution works only for an input array with distinct values.

### 3.2. *PriorityQueue*

*PriorityQueue ***is a** **Heap** **data structure** in Java. With its help, **we can achieve an O(n * log k) solution**. Moreover, this will be a faster solution than the previous one. Due to the stated problem,

*k*is always less than the size of the array. So, it means that

*O(n * log k) ≤ O(n * log n).*

The algorithm** iterates once through the given array**. At each iteration, we'll add a new element to the heap. Also, we'll keep the size of the heap to be less than or equal to *k*. So, we'll have to remove extra elements from the heap and add new ones. As a result, after iterating through the array, the heap will contain the *k* largest values:

```
public List<Integer> findTopK(List<Integer> input, int k) {
PriorityQueue<Integer> maxHeap = new PriorityQueue<>();
input.forEach(number -> {
maxHeap.add(number);
if (maxHeap.size() > k) {
maxHeap.poll();
}
});
List<Integer> topKList = new ArrayList<>(maxHeap);
Collections.reverse(topKList);
return topKList;
}
```

## 4. Selection Algorithm

There are many approaches to solve the given problem. And, although it's beyond the scope of this tutorial, **using the Selection algorithm approach** **will be the best **because it yields a linear time complexity.

## 5. Conclusion

In this tutorial, we've described several solutions for finding the *k* largest elements in an array.

As usual, the example code is available over on GitHub.