Failure process, mode and strength of unidirectional composite single lap bonded joints were investigated experimentally with respect to bonding methods, that is, co-curing with or without adhesive and secondary bonding. The co-cured joint specimen without adhesive had the highest failure strength. Progressive failures along an adhesive layer occurred in the secondary bonded specimen. In the co-cured specimen with adhesive film, delamination failure occurred and the joint strength was lower than that of secondary bonded specimens. Delamination failure did not occur in the secondary bonded specimen because of early crack growth and progressive failure in the adhesive layer. Therefore, The failure strength of composite bonded joint is not always proportionate to adhesion strength of adhesive due to the weakness of delamination in composite materials. The influences of surface roughness, bondline thickness and fillets in the secondary bonded specimens were also studied. (c) 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.