The building blocks of Aleph

This page defines some useful terms for understanding the basics of Aleph and how the Aleph ecosystem is structured to support your investigations.

Aleph is more than just a place to search and explore source documents. It also provides structured entities to model the primary units of an investigation, datasets to house both source material and investigation files, and groups to help you share and manage access to knowledge as your investigation grows.


With Aleph, you can search, upload, organize, and share many different types of documents that would otherwise be difficult to explore. Aleph provides support for extracting meaningful information from PDFs, Excel files, CSVs, email archives, web sites, and other document formats to make source material easier to browse and analyze no matter in which form it comes.

While documents often provide the evidentiary backbone of an investigation, Aleph is built to explore complicated relationships that are often difficult to glean from documents alone - this is where structured entities come in.


Aleph provides an ever-growing vocabulary for describing and modeling the people, companies, assets, and relationships that are often at the center of your investigations.

Each entity type contains a fixed set of possible properties to describe relevant details of that entity, and can be linked to other entities via relationships.

This structured vocabulary allows entities to be more easily searched, filtered, and cross-referenced with other data sources to find relevant co-occurrences and further enrich your investigation.

Datasets & Investigations

In Aleph, datasets and investigations serve as the primary containers for organizing and managing collections of documents and entities. Any document or entity in Aleph must be a part of either a dataset or an investigation.

Source datasets

Source datasets reflect the accumulated contents of a single source (i.e. a company registry, an email leak, a court archive). They are managed by the data administrators of Aleph and cannot be changed or edited by any other users of the platform. Learn about how to find a specific dataset or datasets pertaining to a specific country here.


Investigations are contained workspaces within Aleph where you can upload, edit, and organize data related to an investigation or topic of interest - and they can be shared with any other user or access group within Aleph.

While source datasets cannot be modified, investigations allow you to edit their contents by uploading documents, mapping data into structured entities, and creating your own network diagrams.

Read more about how to get started creating and managing an investigation here.


While browsing Aleph, you are only able to view or edit data according to the respective access permissions you have been granted.

Access in Aleph is managed through Groups. Once granted permission, members of a group have access to all of the source datasets and investigations that have been shared with the group.

Groups are managed by site administrators, and cannot, therefore, be created or deleted through the Aleph user interface.

Read more about managing access here.

Now that you’ve gotten acquainted with some of the core concepts of Aleph, it’s time to dive in. Read on to learn more about searching in Aleph and building out your own investigation.