Vibrational circular dichroism (VCD) has been shown to be a useful technique for characterization of the qualitative secondary structure type for linear polypeptides and oligopeptides. A brief review of characteristic spectral responses and applications is given. Since VCD is dependent on relatively short range interactions, it detects residual structure in such oligomers even if long range order is lost. VCD studies presented here for Lys oligomers as well as Lys and Glu polymers as a function of length, salt added and temperature, confirm residual local order in these 'random coils'. Comparison to results with Pro oligomers, supports an interpretation that these extended structures have a left handed twist conformation. The 'coil' VCD is shown to be significantly reduced in intensity by temperature increase and by decrease in peptide length. By contrast, for partially alpha-helical Ac-(AAKAA)3GY-NH2 oligomers, the spectrum changes to the high temperature Lys(n) shape on heating, first losing then gaining intensity, indicating an equilibrium shift between structured states, from helix to coil (locally ordered) forms. VCD is shown to be a useful technique for monitoring local order in otherwise random coil structures.