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If an academic submits a paper to a journal, it is helpful to know as fast as possible whether that journal will accept it, so that he/she can submit it to an alternative journal as fast as possible.

How long will it generally take before you know that the first-choice journal rejects your paper? Does it ever happen that the journal simply doesn't respond? (as some employers do when you send an application for a position).

I know that it is considered unethical to submit to multiple journals at once, but that does mean that the journal has a responsibility to let you know as fast as possible whether the paper is accepted or not.

(ps. I haven't published anything before)

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It depends quite much on the actual journal and the field. You can try to ask colleagues with previous experience on the same journal. In my field, Physical Chemistry/chemical Physics, the normal thing is acknowledging that the paper has been received withing hours or a few days,and providing a place to inquire automatically after that. That way you know if the article has already been submitted to a referee, for instance. In resume: try to get advise from someone already published in the journal.

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