The synthesis of novel hybrid hydrogels by stepwise copolymerization of multiarm vinyl sulfone-terminated poly(ethylene glycol) macromers and alpha-omega cysteine oligopeptides via Michael-type additions is described. Cross-linking kinetics, studied by in situ rheometry, can be controlled by pH and the presence of charged amino acid residues in close proximity to the Cys, which modulates the pK(a) of the thiol group. These end-linked networks were characterized by their equilibrium swelling in water, by their viscoelastic properties in the swollen state, and by their soluble fraction. It was demonstrated that structure and properties are very sensitive to the preparation state including stoichiometry and precursor concentration and less sensitive to the pH during cross-linking. For each network the concentration of elastically active chains (nu) was calculated from experimentally determined sol fractions using Miller-Macosko theory and compared to values obtained from swelling and rheometry studies and by calculation from Flory's classical network models. Hydrogels were also prepared with varying macromer structures, and their properties were shown to respond to both macromer functionality and molecular weight.