Goal programming (GP) is an important class of multi-criteria decision models widely used to analyze and solve applied problems involving conflicting objectives. Originally introduced in the 1950s by Charnes et al. (Manag Sci 2:138-151, 1955) the popularity and applications of GP has increased immensely due to the mathematical simplicity and modeling elegance. Over the recent decades algorithmic developments and computational improvements have greatly contributed to the diverse applications and several variants of GP models. In this paper we present a state of the art literature review on GP applications in three selected (prominent and popular) areas, namely engineering, management and social sciences.