We describe the investigations of the plasma behavior in three pulsed-power systems: a magnetically insulated ion diode, and plasma opening switch, and a gas-puffed Z pinch. Recently developed spectroscopic diagnostic techniques allow for measurements with relatively high spectral, temporal, and spatial resolutions. The particle velocity and density distributions within a few tens of microns from the dielectric-anode surface are observed using laser spectroscopy. Fluctuating electric fields in the plasma are inferred from anisotropic Stark broadening. For the plasma opening switch experiment, a novel gaseous plasma source was developed which is mounted inside the high-voltage inner conductor. The properties of this source, together with spectroscopic observations of the electron density and particle velocities of the injected plasma, are described. Emission line intensities during the switch operation are discussed. In the Z-pinch experiment, spectral emission-line profiles of various charge-state ions are studied during the implosion phase. Radial velocity distributions are observed from the line Doppler shifts and widths.