A new Raman spectroscopic setup for in situ characterization of catalytic materials based on a tunable laser system and a confocal Raman microscope is described. The laser excitation wavelength is variable over a broad range from deep ultraviolet (UV) to near-infrared allowing for targeted use of Raman diagnostics for catalyst characterization. By utilization of resonance effects, the sensitivity of the method can be strongly increased. The potential of the setup is illustrated by new in situ Raman results on dispersed vanadium oxide catalysts obtained at 217.5 and 280 nm UV laser excitation. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.