This paper describes a six-stage methodology for developing ontologies for engineering design, together with the research methods and evaluation of each stage. The methodology focuses upon understanding a user’s domain models through empirical research. A case study of an ontology for searching, indexing, and retrieving engineering knowledge is described. The root concepts of the ontology were elicited from engineering designers. Relationships between concepts are extracted as the ontology is populated. The contribution of this research is a methodology to allow researchers and industry to create ontologies for their particular purpose and a thesaurus for the terms within the ontology.