Undoped and cobalt-doped (1-4 wt.%) ZnO polycrystalline, thin films have been fabricated on quartz substrates using sequential spin-casting and annealing of simple salt solutions. X-ray diffraction (XRD) reveals a wurzite ZnO crystalline structure with high-resolution transmission electron microscopy showing lattice planes of separation 0.26 nm, characteristic of (002) planes. The Co appears to be tetrahedrally co-ordinated in the lattice on the Zn sites (XRD) and has a charge of + 2 in a high-spin electronic state (X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy). Co-doping does not alter the wurzite structure and there is no evidence of the precipitation of cobalt oxide phases within the limits of detection of Raman and XRD analysis. Lattice defects and chemisorbed oxygen are probed using photoluminescence and Raman spectroscopy - crucially, however, this transparent semiconductor material retains a bandgap in the ultraviolet (3.30-3.48 eV) and high transparency (throughout the visible spectral regime) across the doping range.