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I am a researcher in computer science. I have seen few research papers in a journal called Information Processing Letters, which seems to cover a very broad subject area. I am not getting what distinguishes such a journal from other journals in the area of computer science. Why would somebody publish in such a letter journal?

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While the areas covered by this journal is very broad, the journal focusses on contributions that can be explained in a concise way. They have a strict page limit that is quite low, hence the "letters" in the name.

Other non-letter journals ask for contributions from a more narrow field of research and have a much higher page number limit (if they have one at all). These journals accept papers that provide a substantial benefit to the respective research area, regardless of their length. While the papers submitted to a journal do not officially compete for acceptance (as they would in a conference), all submitted papers need to be competitive in terms of how much they bring the community forward in order to be accepted. Small isolated results often do not fare well in this regard.

A letters journal is hence attractive for contributions that can be explained in a few pages, and for which it makes no sense to embed them in a larger paper (or the author does not want to).

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    And since the papers are shorter, the time to publication may be shorter for some such journals.
    – Buffy
    Jan 18, 2019 at 13:21
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    In various physics areas, one has situations like (Physical Review Letters, Physical Review A-B-C-D-...) and (Applied Physics Letters, Journal of Applied Physics). The letters are short and something new and novel, the longer format is for a deeper, broader look at the phenomena. It is not uncommon to follow up the letter with a journal article.
    – Jon Custer
    Jan 18, 2019 at 13:39
  • @JonCuster Wrzlprmft changed the topic of the original question from one concrete letter journal in CS to letter journals in the general after I wrote the answer. What you write would raise a good number of eyebrows in CS - once a result is published in a journal, it cannot be reused in an extended version of a paper. This possibility is normally reserved for conference papers (which in turn count as publications in CS).
    – DCTLib
    Jan 18, 2019 at 13:50
  • Interesting. We use letters to announce that we've found something new, and show that it happens under certain conditions. The journal article is much more extensive covering many more conditions and nailing down the physical reason in detail. The letter is 'here is something curious', the journal is 'here is the full explanation' - I (and the community) don't think this is 'reuse' of the letter. But, different fields, different ethos...
    – Jon Custer
    Jan 18, 2019 at 13:54
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The rationale is speed. The tradeoff is shorter length. Some prestigious journals (I think Science and Nature) will also promise speed. While they are not "letters" per se, they end up being very similar because of space constraints for the in-demand pages.

Prestige can vary widely. Phys. Rev. Lett is a big deal. Applied Physics Letters is not.

My advice would be to do medium length articles in medium tier journals (APS/ACS subspecialty journals for instance) except in very unusual circumstances: big discovery or something very niche and throwaway that you can't fit into your normal papers.

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    In my field Phys. Rev. Lett. is actually slower, on average, than the equivalent non-letters journal. Jan 20, 2019 at 7:54
  • Interesting. In chemistry, it is opposite. Glad you commented to correct me.
    – guest
    Jan 20, 2019 at 8:35

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