Members of the European Parliament form committees - cross-party groups that scrutinise laws proposed by the European Commission and put forward "own-initiative" reports.
There are 20 committees covering areas such as the budget, environment and foreign affairs, each with a chairman and three vice chairmen.
For each report that the committee produces a "rapporteur" is appointed to take charge of writing the report.
Temporary committees may also be set up for a maximum of one year to investigate a particular issue, for example the alleged use of extraordinary rendition.
European Parliament committees often have impenetrable acronyms - the Foreign Affairs Committee is known as AFET and the Fisheries Committee is known as PECH, for example.