The generalized scattering coefficient (GSC) method is pedagogically derived and employed to study the scattering of plane waves in homogeneous and inhomogeneous layered structures. The numerical stabilities and accuracies of this method and other commonly used numerical methods are discussed and compared. For homogeneous layered structures, concise scattering formulas with clear physical interpretations and strong numerical stability are obtained by introducing the GSCs. For inhomogeneous layered structures, three numerical methods are employed: the staircase approximation method, the power series expansion method, and the differential equation based on the GSCs. We investigate the accuracies and convergence behaviors of these methods by comparing their predictions to the exact results. The conclusions are as follows. The staircase approximation method has a slow convergence in spite of its simple and intuitive implementation, and a fine stratification within the inhomogeneous layer is required for obtaining accurate results. The expansion method results are sensitive to the expansion order, and the treatment becomes very complicated for relatively complex configurations, which restricts its applicability. By contrast, the GSC-based differential equation possesses a simple implementation while providing fast and accurate results.

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