Cost effective and reliable damage detection is critical for the utilization of composite materials in structural applications. Non-destructive evaluation techniques (e.g. ultrasound, radiography, infra-red imaging) are available for use during standard repair and maintenance cycles, however by comparison to the techniques used for metals these are relatively expensive and time consuming. This paper presents part of an experimental and analytical survey of candidate methods for the detection of damage in composite materials. The experimental results are presented for the application of modal analysis techniques applied to rectangular laminated graphite/epoxy specimens containing representative damage modes, including delamination, transverse ply cracks and through-holes. Changes in natural frequencies and modes were then found using a scanning laser vibrometer, and 2-D finite element models were created for comparison with the experimental results. The models accurately predicted the response of the specimems at low frequencies, but the local excitation and coalescence of higher frequency modes make mode-dependent damage detection difficult and most likely impractical for structural applications. The frequency response method was found to be reliable for detecting even small amounts of damage in a simple composite structure, however the potentially important information about damage type, size, location and orientation were lost using this method since several combinations of these variables can yield identical response signatures.