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I am a PhD student now and I have been curious about this question since I was an undergraduate student.

How do researchers choose which journals to submit if your work do not have an obvious fit to a specific one?

After reading some papers, I now have a brief sense, for example, I know Mathematical Programming (A) contains some solid theoretical optimization research, short papers appear in Operations Research Letters or Optimization Letters (what are their differences though?) Operations Research usually contains innovative and new models or algorithms, INFORMS Journal on Computing also contains algorithm research.

Is my sense correct? What about Management Science or POMS or MSOM?

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First, I would agree with your general assessment of Math Programming, OR Letters etc. Between OR Letters and Optimization Letters, I think the main difference is that OR Letters is suitable for general OR work (including optimization) and Optimization Letters is fine for optimization but not suitable for, say, stochastic processes.

As to how authors choose target journals, I'm pretty sure that varies from person to person. My own (pre-retirement) criteria as an academic were the following (not necessarily in order of importance):

  • Is the target an "A" journal, a "B+" journal or lower? (Different departments, colleges or universities will have different ideas of what constitutes an "A" journal.)
  • Is the paper good enough for the journal? (Sending a semi-trivial paper to an "A" journal invites rejection.)
  • Does the fundamental contribution of the paper match the journal? A paper that poses and solves a model for a previously unsolved problem may be a poor fit for a theoretical journal, while a paper that provides insight into the geometry underlying some well-known problem might be a poor fit for an applied journal.
  • If the paper has a specific application area (marketing, logistics, human trafficking, financial wizardry), does the journal focus on that area?
  • Have similar papers (in particular, ones I'm citing) appeared in this journal? If so, the paper is more likely to be a fit (and perhaps more likely to be well received).
  • Have I been burned by this journal in the past? Review quality can vary from journal to journal (and submission to submission). If I've received dopey reviews from a journal more than once, I'll likely think twice about submitting to it. Note that negative reviews (major revision or rejection) are not automatically "dopey".
  • Have I had good luck with this journal in the past? I can think of one journal where previous reviews of my work were both constructive and timely. Ceteris paribus, I would be happy to submit to them again.
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  • $\begingroup$ Thank you so much for sharing your own experiences! Since there are so many uncertain factors about journal review process, is it possible that a B journal rejection could make it to A journal acceptance in general? $\endgroup$ – ORrookie9 Feb 19 at 22:58
  • $\begingroup$ Absolutely. In fact, I once had a paper that got either a rejection or a major revise-and-resubmit from journal A and was accepted by (equal or slightly better) journal B with no revisions (beyond fixing one typo, I think). Sadly, one of the major uncertainty factors is the quality of the reviews. $\endgroup$ – prubin Feb 20 at 23:09

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