A survey of the optical spectra of IRAS galaxies, made with the AAT, has shown that the majority have strong emission lines. Ratios of the emission lines have been plotted on the Veilleux-Osterbrock diagram ([O III]/Hβ against [N II]/Hα); this shows that the IRAS galaxies comprise several classes. In our sample the majority appear to be starburst galaxies, but Seyfert, Liner and narrow-line galaxies are also represented. Co-added spectra of the galaxy classes are presented. On the basis of optical spectroscopy, it appears that the starburst phenomenon is capable of generating luminosities exceeding 1012 L ⊙.