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Last year one of my TAs (a Ph.D. scholar) gave a problem to my undergraduate class, I found the problem very interesting and devoted a lot of time to it. Eventually, I developed a model with my TA along the line of the problem and wrote a paper on it. We believe the model will provide a new dimension to the concerned topic.

Now the paper has been rejected twice by two reputed journals. Along with some minor issues (that can be easily rectified), they’ve pointed out a lack of motive/ applicability in the real world as the major issue. Now I can’t decide what steps I should take; these are some alternatives that I can think of:

  1. Leave that problem statement.
  2. Wait for some solid motive. But till when?
  3. Go with some minor journal or conference.
  4. Other steps that I am not aware of.

The problem statement is in computer science. Apart from this, I am working on another problem statement and due to stillness in this problem, my time and attention are being divided unnecessarily.

What steps can I take?

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This is hard to answer without more information about the actual problem, but in general it is all about finding the correct publication venue. It does not necessarily mean a venue with lower impact, but one with another focus.

If you really can not think about any practical application, it might still solve an interesting problem and might find an application in other areas.

For example, it might be the case that you found a new method to formulate process scheduling as a graph problem that you can solve in an interesting way. The resulting schedules might not be better than the state of the art scheduling algorithms, so you get rejected by journals about process scheduling. Still it is an interesting graph problem so it might be better suited for journals with the focus on graph theory.

But the most important aspect in this context is to tailor the paper to the publication venue. If you now try to submit to the graph theory journal do not write "This paper presents a method to improve process scheduling" but "This paper presents an efficient method to solve the minimum dominating set problem under the constraint .... It has, for example, application in the area of process scheduling".

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    @Miguel You could say that research without direct applicability should not be published, but then whole research areas would have to be closed. – koalo Dec 22 '17 at 8:52
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    @koalo No, I don't accept the premise. In fact I want the OP to arrive to the opposite conclusion: there is a motivation/context for every line of research, but we have to work harder to find it and describe it in the paper. It is the authors' job, not the reviewers'. – Miguel Dec 22 '17 at 16:49
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    @Miguel Yes, if you put it that way I fully agree! Still, it is very diverse what is accepted as motivation. While some reviewers will only accept a motivation along the lines "I can prove that this results in an economic growth of 110% in the next 5 years." others are pleased for example if the problem sounds interesting or hard to solve. – koalo Dec 22 '17 at 16:58
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    @koalo IMHO the key word is context: this problem sounds interesting because there are other similar works from outstanding researchers. It is interesting because it has been hard to solve for me... no, it is not enough. – Miguel Dec 22 '17 at 17:04
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    @Miguel I agree! That is a very important aspect that I have not covered in my answer. A "free floating" publication without any anchoring in related work has a very hard time to get accepted. So one aspect of tailoring to the correct publication venue includes making connections to related work published in this context. – koalo Dec 22 '17 at 17:13

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