Surface enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) has achieved much attention since its conception in 1974. The analytical technique overcomes many difficulties associated with conventional Raman whilst also increasing sensitivity. However, the increased interest and work in the field has also identified flaws, many of which are centred on the irreproducibility of the SERS enhancement effect. The majority of the work described in this thesis focusses on the 'optimisation' of solid-state and solution based SERS systems. Optimisation plays a crucial role in maximising both enhancement effects and reproducibility. Here criteria are outlined for the synthesis of high performance solid-state SERS substrates and the synthesis of a range of substrates is assessed, each with associated pros and cons. The most successful substrate was synthesised by exploiting redox potentials which allow for the direct deposition of silver onto copper foil. The deposition times and temperatures were optimised sequentially to generate a high performance substrate capable of detecting Rhodamine 6G at trace levels. Reproducibility comparisons of the silver on copper (SoC) substrate were carried out against commercial substrates: Klarite and QSERS, multiple univariate and multivariate methods were used to assess the substrates performance. The results confirmed that the SoC substrate performed better than both the commercial substrates. The work also highlights the importance of using multiple data analysis methods in order to assess the performance of a solid-state SERS substrate. Deposition of the silver surface was also successful on British 2p coins allowing the for the detection and discrimination of illegal and legal drugs when coupled with multivariate data analysis methods such as PCA and PLS. Solution based SERS analyses were also carried out successfully using different optimisation strategies. The initial investigation involved careful control of the individual components of a SERS system (nanoparticles, aggregating agents and analyte) in order to establish a low limit of detection for the increasingly abused 'legal high' MDAI. The use of a reduced factorial design was then successfully employed to explore a greater number of SERS variables and define a low limit of detection for the class B drug mephedrone. The robust experimental design also allowed an insight into the importance of each of the individual components within a solution based SERS system. The final piece of work carried out was the SERS discrimination of antibiotics: ampicillin, ticarcillin and carbenicillin. Optimisation of the solution based experiment allowed the in-situ hydrolysis of the β-lactam moiety present in ampicillin rendering it pharmacologically inactive to be followed under acidic conditions at concentrations of 10 ppm.