Founded in 1971 as the Southwest Cross Examination Debate Association, CEDA is now the primary national association promoting policy topic intercollegiate academic debate.
In cooperation with the National Debate Tournament Committee and the American Debate Association, CEDA formulates the annual intercollegiate policy debate topic used in tournament competition throughout the nation.
CEDA acts as a tournament sanctioning agent, providing through its Constitution and By-Laws a framework for normalizing tournament practices and procedures. Throughout the tournament season, CEDA calculates the National Sweepstakes Standings, the national and regional rankings of member institutions based on compiled tournament results.
The association also hosts an annual National Championship Tournament that brings together over 200 individual debate teams from across the nation to compete for a national team championship.
One of CEDA's most important functions is to serve as a professional association for scholars and teachers in the field of applied argumentation and debate. In addition to sponsoring scholarly programs on issues of interest to association members at the annual convention of the National Communication Association, CEDA has organized two indigenous scholarly assessment conferences: The 1991 St. Paul 20th Anniversary Assessment Conference, and the 2001 Tahoe Conference on Academic Debate. CEDA also publishes Contemporary Argumentation and Debate: The Journal of the Cross Examination Debate Association, a refereed scholarly journal that serves as the primary outlet for monographs and essays addressing issues related to the theory and practice of academic debate.