We have used the circular dichroism and infrared spectra of a specially designed 50 protein database [Oberg, K.A., Ruysschaert, J.M. & Goormaghtigh, E. (2003) Protein Sci.12, 2015–2031] in order to optimize the accuracy of spectroscopic protein secondary structure determination using multivariate statistical analysis methods. The results demonstrate that when the proteins are carefully selected for the diversity in their structure, no smaller subset of the database contains the necessary information to describe the entire set. One conclusion of the paper is therefore that large protein databases, observing stringent selection criteria, are necessary for the prediction of unknown proteins. A second important conclusion is that only the comparison of analyses run on circular dichroism and infrared spectra independently is able to identify failed solutions in the absence of known structure. Interestingly, it was also found in the course of this study that the amide II band has high information content and could be used alone for secondary structure prediction in place of amide I.